Looking Ahead to 2018

Today marks the end of a long vacation, far from the frigid eastern half of the United States to which I will be shortly returning. I’m not one for resolutions on New Years Day, but I do work better when I operate under some form of plan. And now seems like a good time to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to the next.

Back in February, I decided it was time to stop blogging on a daily basis, as I realized my streak of daily posting was impressing nobody except myself. Unfortunately, in the months after that decision, I’ve struggled to come up with a consistent blogging practice in its place. Too many times, I’ve gone weeks without posting. Not what I had intended, at all.

My current thought is that I need to commit to writing three or four posts a week, each on a different recurring topic. Book reviews, which I’ve enjoyed writing over the past week, is one such topic; maybe not a book, but a movie, or online magazine. Other topics I’ve thought of have been flash fiction contests, and reblogs from bloggers I admire.

So there you have it. For each of the coming weeks in 2018, I want to write a post on each of the following topics:

  • Reviewing
  • Flash fiction
  • Reblogging

Mixed in with these posts will be the occasional multi-post short story, political commentary, and of course some awful poetry.

That should keep my busy for the coming year.

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A Change of Plans

When I began drafting chapter 9 of Gray Metal Faces, I had planned to revise chapters 8 (drafted in April this year) and 9 for this year’s NaNoWriMo. But soon after completing that final chapter, I decided to take my writing in a different direction this November.

Last year’s NaNoWriMo (during which I revised chapters 6 and 7) was very rewarding, as it demonstrated I had the drive, dedication, and discipline to undertake an enormous project, and complete it successfully. However, the experience also left me completely drained, and I knew a similar effort this year would be equally as exhausting. And in the past month, I’ve started several other writing projects, all of which would need to be put on hold as I fought my way through the revision. Chapters 8 and 9 will be revised — I’ve spent too much time on this novel, and it’s too close to being ready for an agent or editor’s review, for me to abandon the project. But there’s a time for all things, and now is not the time for this effort.

So while it’s NoNaNoWriMo this year, there will be time for other activities, such as a return to daily blogging on this site. And I’ll begin today with a reblog from Andra Watkins, who shares some exciting plans for her own writing career.

First of Many

Reached a milestone today — my first rejection. This is not failure, but progress. It’s now time to read the submission guidelines for the second journal, format my manuscript to get it in compliance, and submit that story again.

I’ve got 99 more rejections to accumulate in the coming year, so there’s no time to waste. On to the next rejection, and the next, until I finally get an acceptance, and then move on to my next series of rejections.

Now, for part three

Wrote my pitch letters for part 2 of my freelance writing workshop last night. (Interesting observation: for the first part of the workshop two weeks ago, we had around 15 people. For the second part last night, for which we had an assignment, only four people returned.) Feedback on my pitches was largely positive (I need to clarify the angle for each of my stories), and I was encouraged to submit them to actual publications. Consider that part three of the workshop — applying what I’ve learned to the real world. Taking a workshop or course is definitely within my comfort zone, but the time has come to be more daring.

Grinding

Been a productive week. After submitting my short story, I completed a draft of the next chapter for one of my novels, and forwarded it to a writers’ group that meets on the second Saturday each month. Next task: pitch letters for two magazine/newspaper articles. And after that, spend Labor Day weekend starting the draft for the final chapter of another novel.

It’s tiring. At times I feel the reclinter and remote pulling me towards them, tempting me to turn on a ball game and put this crazy idea of making a living as a writer on the shelf. But I gotta keep grinding,  

One Closer to A Hundred

Finally submitted the story I’ve been writing to an online publication. Might sound perverse, but I almost want to be rejected — not being I’m a masochist, but rather because I know rejection is a part of the writing career. I’ve heard that a writer should aspire to 100 rejections a year, the assumption being that among all that failure will be several key successes. I’m not going to get to a hundred by the end of 2017, but 25… we’ll have to see.

Big Plans

Got a lot of projects to finish in the coming weeks:

  • Final proofread of a story, then start sending it out and gathering rejections
  • Draft another chapter for the novel I’m sharing with my local writer’s group
  • Create pitch letters for two non-fiction articles
  • Start drafting the final chapter of Gray Metal Faces

Completing all that work while working my day job, and helping my wife’s home business, is going to be a challenge. But stepping up to challenges like these is the only way I’m going to get where I want to be.

Writing to Live

And on the day after I declare my intention to make a living as a writer… I drive down to my son’s college, to help him move into his fraternity.

Writing is a big part of my life, and if all goes according to plan that portion will grow substantially larger in the coming year. But just as I’ve refused to define who I am by whatever job I currently worked, I’m not about to let my new profession interfere with other priorities. And there’s nothing I value more than my family.

Thoughts at the Base of the Mountain

After forty years of preparation, I’m finally walking towards my primary ambition in life.

I’ve known since my teens that writing is the only job I’ve ever wanted to do. That last sentence intentionally included the word job, because my ambition has never been simply to write. Any clown can create a WordPress account and start posting within a day, and for the past several years I’ve done little more than clown around at writing on this blog. I harbor no regrets, and I’m glad for the wonderful people I’ve met during this time — but all that effort has never been fully satisfying. I want to work at writing, make a profession of this craft, make a living at this gig.

Why work, when I’ve been having a pretty good time so far? Lemme tell you a story…

A few years ago, a former coworker developed a software application. Knowing that I was an adept technical writer, he hired me to write the app’s user manual. Within a few hours after installing and using his application, I realized it probably didn’t have much of a future — I think he sold six licenses before abandoning the project — but I had already signed a contract to write the manual, so there was no going back. One Saturday afternoon in June (the month is important), I swallowed a bowl of mac and cheese for lunch around 1, then fired up my friend’s app and a word processor. I began exploring the app’s features, and making notes on my observations. After a while, I had an outline for the manual; material for the introduction came to me suddenly, and I banged out a page and half of text with a couple screen shots. I continued exploring the apps, and after finding a series of bugs I opened a second document to record those issues. I then created the first draft of the setup instructions, reminding myself to add items to the FAQ… when I realized my back was stiff, and I was hungry. For the first time since I started working that afternoon, I then looked up at the clock.

Eight. Thirty. Six.

With the length of the summer day, I had completely lost track of time. I had been writing, without a break, for over seven hours. I was tired, hungry, and sore from my work that afternoon… but at that moment, after finally coming up for air, I didn’t mind. Because I was having fun. And I realized that exhaustive exhilaration I was feeling had been my aspiration for nearly four decades. To commit heart, body, mind, soul into my writing, and at the end produce a work that not only pleases me intellectually and aesthetically, but also sustains my material needs. To make this sucker pay. It was a spiritually invigorating experience, a brief but shining moment when I felt complete and satisfied.

That marvelous feeling didn’t linger, as my attention turned immediately to dinner, and then in the coming days to completing a user manual that few would read and none appreciate, as well as the productive drudgery of my “real” job. I found new ways to keep myself from pursuing that destiny (and in subsequent posts, I plan to explore each of the barriers I’ve erected to keep me in place). But there was no forgetting that Saturday afternoon in June, and that memory has led me to this moment, staring up from the base of a very tall mountain.

This journey that begins today isn’t going to be easy; people far more talented and bold than I have failed in this profession. I have no idea how long it will take me to reach the summit, little concept of the difficulties I’ll encounter along the way, few clues as to the pain and frustration that lie ahead.

Yet I’ve never been this certain about any other decision. The ambition that awoke in my teen years, and was realized briefly on that incredible Saturday afternoon in June — to work the only job I’ve ever desired, to make a living as a writer — the climb begins today.

This blog has evolved several times over the years, and this post marks another transition. There will be fewer extended series of fiction, and much more content similar to today’s, as I chronicle my career as a professional writer. Words such as I and me will appear far more frequently; whether that’s possible without degenerating into self-indulgence remains to be seen, and is one of several challenges I plan to conquer. As always, I appreciate your support for this blog, and hope you remain curious enough to follow my new adventure.